Sunday, December 15, 2013

Diabetic inmate dies after jail staff failed to provide insulin

This tragic episode will likely cost the city of Irving a pretty penny. The Dallas News story ("Irving jail staff new diabetic inmate had no insulin before death," Dec. 9) opened:
Irving jail staff knew that a diabetic inmate needed insulin hours, if not days, before she collapsed in her cell and died.

Two jail supervisors have been placed on paid leave while the city and district attorney’s office investigate the Nov. 3 death of Sarah Tibbetts, 37.

The medical examiner has not yet ruled on the cause of death. Nor have police responded to accounts from family and jail sources that Tibbetts, who took insulin daily to survive, did not get any during nearly 42 hours in custody.

A grocery store baker before her life began to fall apart several years ago, Tibbetts often lived out of motel rooms and recently lost her 12-year-old son to child services, according to her family.

The only convictions on her record were misdemeanors; trespassing and drug possession last year. But Irving police had arrested her several times before they found her Nov. 1 in a motel room — allegedly with someone else’s credit card and traces of marijuana on baggies in her purse.

Family said that Tibbetts’ arrests usually ended with a minor charge being dropped and a trip to the hospital for insulin, which she either left behind or wasn’t allowed to use because it was improperly labeled.

But this time, something went wrong.
Jail staff knew the woman needed insulin because her mother told them:
Rebecca Tibbetts, Sarah’s mother, said staff phoned her a day after the motel arrest and asked her to bring the medicine to jail.

“I said I’m in California. I can’t bring it up,” said Rebecca Tibbetts, who lives in that state. “I said my daughter is insulin-dependent and she will die without her insulin. If you can’t provide it, she needs to be sent to a hospital.”
Her boyfriend, in a jail cell across the corridor from her, watched Tibbetts slip into a diabetic coma then “Screamed bloody murder until [the guards] finally got up.” Reported the News, "Later that day, Rebecca Tibbetts got another call from the jail and learned her daughter was dead." Further, "A jail employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that staff knew Tibbetts needed insulin before her death." Authorities say they're investigating and have yet to publicly comment.

H/T: Texas Monthly.

18 comments:

albeed said...

The ONLY way to change the system is to put every LEO involved in jail for at least 6 months, have them forfeit any future benefits and have them and their supervisors and not the taxpayers pay any Civil Damages. This is the only way this should be handled so that real changes will be made.

Anonymous said...

I do believe this should qualify for a criminal charge, something like manslaughter or negligent homicide. This person was imprisoned and prevented from getting what she needed to survive. The officers had a duty to take reasonable steps to insure her safety and they willfully failed to do so.

Paul UK said...

This is the reason why a few years ago, many police forces in the United Kingdom introduced custody nurses. Not only did it save lives, but also helped the police with cases where there were mental health issues, should the person in custody be transferred to hospital (often the police world transfer to hospital only to find out it was unnecessary), assess if the person in custody was fit to be interviewed. When you work it all out, it helps the police.

Anonymous said...

Placing my bet that the jailers claim she was faking being a diabetic, which is why they didn't think she needed insulin.

Gloria Rubac said...

As a diabetic and an activist, I fear going to jail. The last time I was arrested at a protest for Shaka Sankofa before his execution, the police let my daughter bring my meds to the jail. But when transferred from the City to the County, I never saw the medication. For three days. I hope they charge these jailers with murder.

Carol said...

Sad, this is not the only location things like this happen. TDCJ Clements unit has a horrible inmate responce time and a great gaurd responce time...looks like gaurds give their own punishment in addition to the courts. So sorry for you loss.

Will Yablome said...

Gaurds? Is this like Gourds?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Right will, the important point here is a typo by a blog commenter. Glad to see you've got your priorities straight.

Don said...

I am sure this happens quite a bit and is covered up. I think Tim Cole died under similar circumstances.

Richard Allen said...

My heart goes out to this family and innumerable others. The majority of doctors who are on staff inside prisons have lost most if not all their free world practicing privileges and can only practice in prisons with a special license. I was at Polunski unit and I was told by the head doctor,"I am not going to treat you. You should have taken better care of yourself while you are in here. You can get it checked out ounce you get out." I ended up losing my right eye. Also in my pod one gentleman did actually die due to not receiving his insulin. So many cases I can mention about the horrific things that go on medically behind prison walls.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

This is a new low in Texas incarceration. I had the displeasure of being thrust into the Irving jail several years ago for a traffic ticket I did not pay. The one thing you could not do , was, get a guard to come down the walkway so you could ask them a question about any thing, so I am not surprised to hear that this has happened. I feel for this poor lady, a few right decisions and she would be in treatment rebuilding her life instead of being in her own funeral. This is entirely on the jail staff and how they were trained. I do believe they murdered that woman believing no one would really care. The jail guard mentality is deplorable in Texas. Quality people are not attracted to these positions because they don't pay very well, the employees (guards) are treated like crap. They turn that same treatment to their charges. Incarceration is a big business. That's why they want to arrest everyone they can. GEO and CCA are making a great living as are attorneys and the law enforcement guys get to buy more fancy equipment to use. Any and all arrests are stretched as long as possible to elicit the most per man per day costs from the county, state, fed, whoever is paying the bill for that certain inmate. They willingly ignored that ladys pleas for help and medication without so much as a thought to her life or death. I personally would charge every guard who worked there while she was there with murder. The supervisors will of course swear they trained them better and the poor shnooks who were never trained will take this in the face. Oh and by the way Will It's hard to take you seriously when you dress up like the Colorado Movie shooter.

Anonymous said...

I now have complications and mild sezures due to a cold-turkey off of a strong anti-depressant I was prescribed for 3 years prior to my vacation with TDCJ....You wouldn't believe the things I saw and witnessed...but due to being the scumbags (in their eyes) time will pass and a slap on the hand and back to work somewhere else in the system as a parole or probation officer more than likely.....

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a really bad case, especially if it is true, as the article implies, that the jail staff were familiar with this particular inmate and her needs. But the medical examiner's verdict will be important, because several details of this story do not square with a diabetic coma.

It should be pointed out that the statements made by commenter Richard Allen are grossly inaccurate. At least in the State of Texas, in this century, prison physicians and nurses are NOT those who have lost all of their privileges to work in the private sector. If this was ever true it no longer is. It is as hard, or harder, to get credentialed in corrections as it is anywhere. His inaccurate remarks cannot be allowed to stand unanswered.

--Prison Doc

Anonymous said...

like i have always said tdcj needs to be investigated, overhauled complety, they dont give a dam about the needs of the inmates and it's hard as hell to make parole, you will get wrote up for everything to keep you from making parole...yes it is all about the money the state makes, just goes to show texas loves the almighty dollor. dont care about a life...something needs to be done!!! and FAST!!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

This wasn't TDCJ, 12:58, it was a city jail.

Prison Doc, others have said similar things about the cause of death and perhaps the ME will say something else killed her. But do you disagree that the jail has a responsibility to provide medication to an insulin-dependent diabetic if they know of her condition?

Anonymous said...

Grits I agree and felt that I said that in my first sentence. Regardless of the cause of death the diabetic care or lack of it seems inexcusable.

--Prison Doc

Anonymous said...

tdcj or city jail all the same they all get away w/it nothing ever changes, you will never pay your debt to this state, they want let you, got about as much of a chance as a snow ball in hell

Anonymous said...

Amen! You are absolutely right. Incarcerations in Texas aee all about financial and political gain, it has nothing to do with truth and true justice!